Delighted. Just delighted. It's precisely what they've deserved for years, decades even. I refer, of course, to the Australian cricket team being exposed as cheats.

Am I just piling on when everyone else is? Am I kicking them when they're down? You bet I am. I despise them. They stole a good thing from the world.

It isn't the ball tampering, though there is plenty about that little matter to wonder at and to condemn. It is the manner in which they play the game.

I hate it. I've hated it for years. For them, to play is to cheat.


Consider the Australian captain before the current one, Michael Clarke. He has expressed horror at the ball-tampering incident, has described it as a bad dream.

But he is the man who told an opposing batsman at the crease, to 'get ready for a broken f…ing arm'.

To an Australian cricketer that's called banter. It seeks to intimidate. To bully. And I hate it.

I played a lot of cricket and I loved it from the very first. It was a game and boys like games, and I was good at it, and everyone likes to be good at something.

By the age of 14 cricket meant more to me than anything, and even after puberty had rumbled in to colour the world and widen it, I still drew vast amounts of pleasure out of cricket. To play it made me happy.

Cricket took longer to play than other games. There was a lot of standing around, a lot of waiting. So there was time to savour it, time to smile, to laugh, time for wit. And it was very good for making friends.

I must have played perhaps a thousand games of cricket in half a dozen countries. And of those thousand games I can remember the results of maybe five. Every team I played for played to win.

But in reality we played to play. To play is to be released from reality. Play isn't conflict. Conflict is nasty. Conflict draws blood. Play mimics it but draws its sting. It's not for real.


When you play a game you only feign enmity. You don't hate your opponent. You have just agreed to take each other on within a framework of rules. The aim is pleasure for all parties. It's a game.

Of course, I didn't play at the highest level. I never made professional. But when I was a kid the men who did play professionally were old enough to remember actual conflict. They remembered the second world war. The knew that a game was different.

But that generation moved on and a new way of playing the game evolved and the Australians led the way. And gradually it filtered down from the upper to the lower levels of the game and it spread across the globe.

Now schoolkids and club cricketers everywhere do it. And I hate it. I hated it from the first. It is the game of verbal violence.

Bowlers and fielders abuse batsmen. They hope to upset them, to disturb their equilibrium. It's known as sledging. It's said to be hard but fair.

It is neither hard nor fair. It's cowardly and it's cheating. It's indecent and it's wrong. It sucks the pleasure from the game.

At base it's just bad manners. Manners matter. They are not fogeyish or fusty. Manners are an expression of respect. They acknowledge another's right to be. Manners are adult. Children have to be taught them.

Cricketers who sledge in order to win have reverted to the worst of infancy, to aggressive naked selfishness.

And in doing so they've stolen courtesy from a game, stolen civility.

In the wake of which it is hardly surprising to see the Australians cheating in another way.

Captain, vice-captain and senior players all agreed, it seems, to tamper with the ball in search of advantage, without one of them having the courage to say no, this is wrong, I will not be part of it. Not one of them.

The series against South Africa was already bitter-tempered. Earlier in the same game the vice-captain, David Warner, perhaps the most infantile of Australia's many sledgers, was roused to a fury by a taunt from one of the South Africans. Warner had to be physically restrained by his team mates.

The taunt, apparently, concerned Warner's wife. Several players commented in his defence that such a remark had 'crossed the line'. Oh spare us.

There is only one line that matters, the line of basic decency and courtesy, and the Australians led everyone across that line many years ago.

After that it was only ever a race to the bottom. Which they've now reached.